Early last summer, I spent ten days in Israel. I heard from world renowned speakers, hiked and explored the beautiful country, and made incredible friends with whom I would wander the cities at night as music played all around and everything seemed carefree. After those ten days, I didn’t want to leave the place where I feel my happiest and most at ease. But the trip came to an end, and I went on with my summer without fear of what was taking place in Israel.
That feeling was shattered on September 13, 2015.
This Sunday, March 13th, 2016 will mark six months since I froze when I saw that Alexander Levlovich’s car had been pelted with so many rocks as he drove through the streets of Israel that he lost control of his car and was killed.
March 13th will mark five and a half months since I burst into tears in my university library upon reading that Israel’s President Rivlin spoke at the funeral of Na’ama and Eitam Henkin, in front of their four newly orphaned children. He said that Na’ama had sent him a letter in June about the murder of Danny Gonen, and he observed, “I promised that I would continue to embrace the terror victims and visit every home in which the lights have been extinguished forever. I didn’t think, it didn’t occur to me, that your light would go out, and I, we, would embrace your children.”
It will mark nearly five and a half months since the deaths of Aharon Banita-Bennet and Nehemia Lavi touched our souls; five months since 78-year-old Haim Haviv was killed in an attack on a bus in Jerusalem, along with Alon Govberg; and five months since I stopped in my tracks in the middle of my campus quad when I read that Rabbi Yeshayahu Akiva Krishevsky was run down at a bus stop by a terrorist.
It will mark nearly five months since the deaths of Omri Levy, Habtom Weldemichael Zerhom, Avraham Asher Hasno, Rabbi Haim Rothman, and Richard Lakin.
And it will mark four and a half months since I was messaged that the 80-year-old woman stabbed in Israel was my friend’s great aunt. The message came with a request to say a mi’sheberach for her as she was treated and saved.
It will mark nearly four and a half months since 19-year-old Binyamin Yakobovitch died of wounds sustained when a terrorist rammed a car into him.
And it will mark four months since Rabbi Netanel Litman and his son, Ya’akov, were fatally shot in a car while their family looked on in fear. At the funeral of her father and brother, Sarah – soon to be married – said, “Father, where have you gone? I wanted you at my wedding, who will walk me to the chuppah now?” The answer, she decided, was to invite the entire Jewish population of Israel and all over the world to her wedding. Thousands of people gathered to celebrate with her on her wedding day; and I, and so many others, watched through tears of awe as the beautiful and inspiring videos of that day appeared online.
It will mark four months since Avi Fraenkel, the father of Naftali Fraenkel – one of the three boys kidnapped and killed by Hamas two summers ago – spent Shabbat on my University campus, sharing his hope for the future.
And it will mark nearly four months since one of the bloodiest days in this series of events, when Reuven Aviram, Aharon Yesayev, Yaakov Don and Shadi Arafa were killed by terrorists.
It will also mark nearly four months since this violence hit closest to home: the day I was texted about the death of a mutual friend from my USY youth group. On that day, my Facebook exploded with pictures and memories of Ezra Schwartz: Ezra, the eighteen-year-old who had traveled the country with some of my closest friends on a summer program; Ezra, the teen studying in Israel for a year before going to college, like so many of my friends do; Ezra, who was supposed to start college in the fall just five minutes from where I live.
After that day, I started to become numb as I read all the notifications of subsequent attacks. To Hadar Buchris and Ziv Mizrachi: I am forever sorry that your deaths passed me by.
This Sunday will mark three and a half months since I lost my breath when I heard that Jake Laznik – a lone soldier just five days into his service, who went to camp with countless of my friends – had been injured in yet another car ramming. I held my breath for what seemed like years, until I read his statement that this attack made him even more determined to stay in Israel and serve his country, which I have seen him do through pictures on my newsfeed.
When I read that, the numbness started to lift and I smiled…until two and half months ago when Ofer ben Ari and Reuven Birmajer were killed, leaving behind nine children who never got to say a last goodbye. Almost two and a half months since Gennady Kaufman succumbed to the wounds he had been fighting for almost a month after being stabbed.
Then came the new year. But the scene in Israel wasn’t new.
In one day, Alon Bakal, Shimon Ruimi, and Amin Shaaban were killed. And any hope I had for a new year of peace vanished before my eyes.
This Sunday will mark now nearly two months since I read in disbelief of Dafna Meir, murdered in her own home, in front of her four children and two foster children. Her face was all I saw for days whenever I closed my eyes.
It will mark just over a month and a half since Shlomit Krigman died after being stabbed. And it will mark a month and a half since nineteen-year-old policewoman Hadar Cohen was killed while on duty in Jerusalem.
On and on… the stabbings and shootings and car rammings of innocents have filled my mind for the last six months, and have started to blur together.
That fact is crushing.
In two months, I will be returning to Israel. I know that when I step off the plane, I will again fall in love with the land, its chaos and its calm. I will make new memories and I will make new friends. And the numbness I have felt will be gone.
I realize there is no simple solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But I know with certainty that this is not the solution; and we must not sit in silence, letting these names – these lives – blur together. Blur together and seem all at once.
This Sunday will mark six months since we began using the phrase “the recent wave of attacks,” as if this has been just yesterday. But it has been six months. It has been half of a year.
As this six-month mark approaches, I urge you to join me in remembering these people individually, in recalling each of their memories – what they each shared with the world, and who they were each destined to become. Remember their families and all that they must be going through still today.
And then, strive for a change. For an end to incitement, and hatred and fear.
And call for a peaceful tomorrow, where there is hope for all who have been caught up in this conflict.